Defining A New Paradigm

The implementation of a drought policy can alter a nation's approach to drought management. In the past decade or so, drought policy and preparedness has received increasing attention from governments, international and regional organizations, and nongovernmental organizations. Simply stated, a national drought policy should establish a clear set of principles or operating guidelines to govern the management of drought and its impacts. The policy should be consistent and equitable for all regions, population groups, and economic sectors and consistent with the goals of sustainable development. The overriding principle of drought policy should be an emphasis on risk management through the application of preparedness and mitigation measures. This policy should be directed toward reducing risk by developing better awareness and understanding of the drought hazard and the underlying causes of societal vulnerability. The principles of risk management can be promoted by encouraging the improvement and application of seasonal and shorter term forecasts, developing integrated monitoring and drought early warning systems and associated information delivery systems, developing preparedness plans at various levels of government, adopting mitigation actions and programs, creating a safety net of emergency response programs that ensure timely and targeted relief, and providing an organizational structure that enhances coordination within and between levels of government and with stakeholders.

As vulnerability to drought has increased globally, greater attention has been directed to reducing risks associated with its occurrence through the introduction of planning to improve operational capabilities (i.e., climate and water supply monitoring, building institutional capacity) and mitigation measures aimed at reducing drought impacts. This change in emphasis is long overdue. Mitigating the effects of drought requires the use of all components of the cycle of disaster management (Figure 1), rather than only the crisis management portion of this cycle. Typically, when a natural hazard event and resultant disaster occurs, governments and donors follow with impact assessment, response, recovery, and reconstruction activities to return the region or locality to a pre-disaster state. Historically, little attention has been given to preparedness, mitigation, and prediction or early warning actions (i.e., risk management) that could reduce future impacts and lessen the need for government intervention in the future. Because of this emphasis on crisis management, society has generally moved from one disaster to another with little, if any, reduction in risk. In drought-prone regions, another drought often occurs before the region fully recovers from the last drought.

The Cycle of Disaster Management

The Cycle of Disaster Management

Figure 1 Cycle of disaster management. (Source: National Drought Mitigation Center, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA.)

Four key components comprise an effective drought risk reduction strategy: (1) the availability of timely and reliable information on which to base decisions; (2) policies and institutional arrangements that encourage assessment, communication, and application of that information; (3) a suite of appropriate risk management measures for decision makers; and (4) effective and consistent actions by decision makers (O'Meagher et al., 2000). It is critical for governments with drought policy and preparedness experience to share it with other nations that are eager to improve their level of preparedness.

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